Apple to Add Music and TV Streaming to iCloud
Since Apple iCloud was announced in June, it's been known that the upcoming Apple iTunes in the Cloud would let users download purchased songs to multiple devices, and that a paid service called iTunes Match would offer cloud-based downloading of any song in a user's library. But a developer build of iTunes 6.1 beta released late Monday evening added a surprising new feature: iMatch will let users stream their music and TV shows, as well.
The pre-release version of iTunes Match that was made available to developers last night included the streaming features, leading to speculation that Apple decided it didn't need the music labels' permission to offer cloud streaming, since Google and Amazon didn't get permission for their streaming services. A report on Apple Insider denies this, saying Apple acquired streaming licenses in April.
The TV streaming feature is limited to shows that were purchased on iTunes in the Cloud. It doesn't -- yet? -- apply to purchased movies.
The service is still buggy, say developers who have tried it, and isn't available for all music tracks. The same Apple Insider report says the service isn't offering true streaming, as it downloads tracks and stores them locally. As with true streaming, however, playback begins instantly. Downloaded files reside in a temporary cache. Apple Insider says that Apple is going with temporary downloads to prevent problems with the notoriously unreliable cellular carriers.
Apple's iCloud products are expected to launch in the fall. iTunes Match will cost $24.99, and will support up to 25,000 songs from the subscriber's library. Rather than requiring subscribers to upload their tracks, iTunes Match will scan their local library and match it with 256kbps AAC copies stored in the cloud.
Music playback in iTunes Match no longer requires downloading, but will work a little more like Pandora, Rhapsody, and Spotify.
As Apple abandons TV show rentals on Apple TV, questions remain about the technical limitations of iTunes in the Cloud.